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  • Breaking Point

    Approaching Wittenau Sanatorium (“Verrückt Facility”), Berlin, Germany

    Agent Peter McCain

    August 31st, 1945


    Yesterday, Peter received a transmission of an unknown origin on his personal radio. The audio was barely intelligible, but a few key phrases stuck out in the garbled noise. The sender referenced Element 115 and told Peter to find Doctor Richtofen at the Verrückt Facility. Peter assumed the transmission had come from another agent planted in the organization, and followed the orders accordingly. Surely enough, a convoy to Verrückt had been underway at Der Riese. Peter lacked proper papers to get through security and join the convoy, but a mysterious individual pulled Peter into an alley and placed forged papers into his pocket. They allowed him access to the disguised convoy, which had travelled overnight across war-torn Germany to reach Berlin, and now Wittenau Sanatorium was in sight.


    Peter shared the truck bed with several non-sociable young scientists who acted suspicious of his every move. One man across from where Peter was sitting was reading a book by Doctor Edward Richtofen, recounting his research just before the war broke out.


    “I’ve actually read that one. What do you think of it so far?” Peter tried to break the unbearable, awkward silence.


    The reading scientist peeked over the top of the book with a disgusted look, “I have read it before.”


    Peter noticed that the other men were now looking at him in a similar way. He debated keeping quiet, but he was curious how the men viewed “The Butcher.


    “Doctor Richtofen certainly has a very interesting take on the world. I wasn’t really expecting, you know… that.”


    The Doctor shut the book, placing it at his side and staring straight ahead, away from Peter, “Why should he not share his opinion? He is a man of great knowledge. And purpose.”


    Peter could feel the eyes of four other men now buried into him, ready to expose his cover. He backed off, leaving a trailing remark, “Sure, sure… ” 


    Through the port leading into the cabin of the truck, Peter could see that the convoy was now preparing to stop and unload at the asylum. It was a welcome sight compared to the flattened homes in the German countryside that the convoy passed. 


    Though the asylum was still standing, there were clear signs of aerial bombing nearby. All of the trees and grass in the surrounding area had been burned due to the bombs, yet the building seemed nearly unscathed, as if preserved by the bombers. Peter had heard nothing of Americans attempting to take Verrückt, so he assumed that this was the work of the Russians.


    Peter leapt to his feet along with the other men, who were now forming an orderly line to the entrance of the asylum. Despite the severing of ties between Group 935 and the Nazi Party, there stood at the entrance an SS Officer along with several other men in uniform, weapons brandished. Such blatant Nazi activity no longer appeared at Der Riese, 935’s primary facility, however Verrückt’s activities are meant to be a total mystery to anyone but the most trusted of members. As a research assistant, Peter should not even be aware of its existence.


    Along with the Nazi men were crates adorned with their insignias, as well as a currently unmanned tank in the courtyard. It seemed these men were prepared to defend the facility with their lives. If push comes to shove, Peter had a hidden weapon in his boot which he had acquired from France.


    The line finally progressed, and Peter handed the officer his papers. He eyed them up and down with suspicion, but they clearly indicated he was meant to be here. He was allowed access to the facility.


    The air reeked of putrid, rotting flesh, and despite the amount of people working here, it was eerily silent. Men simply shuffled about, heads down, as they went about their day. Peter spotted a man in a gown strapped to a wheelchair, his mouth covered, being wheeled into another nearby room. Peter slowly pursued, watching as several scientists unstrapped his wrists, placing him onto a dentist’s chair. He was then restrained by the men, who prepared the work station as the subject simply moaned, as if unable to even speak. Peter noticed something odd about the men surrounding him; The scientists were Japanese. Memories began to bleed in of his encounters in the Philippines, and the Division 9 trucks filled with POWs.


    Peter was caught standing in the middle of the hallway by a towering man, his lab coat marked with the Division 9 insignia. “Where are you supposed to be?!”


    “I-I-I-” Peter tried to remember his directions, “I’m looking for Doctor Richtofen… ”


    The scientist shook his head, “Richtofen is not here. He has not been here in years… Give me your papers.”


    Peter did as instructed, and the man looked over them quickly, muttering with contempt as he did so, “Research assistant Der Riese American Why does Porter waste my time…”


    He shoved the papers into Peter’s chest, saying “Report to the genetics research lab, and stand clear of the hallways.”


    “Where is that, Doctor, uh-”


    He interrupted harshly, “I am Doctor Okitsu! That way, passing through two doors. Learn the layout, and stay out of the way.”


    Peter did not waste time in following orders, seeking to separate himself from this Doctor Okitsu. If Richtofen is not here, then was the message a hoax? Who sent it? What could Peter do from here?


    The only solution in sight would be blending in during the day, then sending a transmission to Pernell at night.


    As Peter passed through a set of doors, he now realized the awful smell was emanating from the morgue, where orderlies were storing bodies, some fresh, and some older, most likely recently undead subjects. He could now hear screaming coming from the previous room, and he picked up his pace.


    He passed through another set of doors into the genetics research lab. Several men stood around a metal pod filled with a water-like substance. There was a malformed human body inside with a missing arm and extra toes sticking out of the soles of its feet. The Group 935 scientists paid little attention to Peter as they took notes and spoke amongst themselves. Peter prepared to introduce himself to the men, but fell to the ground as the wall caved in and the men were engulfed in flames.


    Peter’s ears rang and his eyes were of little help, his vision now doubled. He soon realized the explosion had thrown him head-first into a wall. The exact passage of time was unclear to Peter, but he could now hear through the ringing: There was shooting and screaming in German from beyond the wall he was now laid up against. Inside the room, there was nothing left standing, the upper floor now caved in, exposing the daylight and a crater near where the wall had once stood.


    Peter now had the strength to crawl, approaching the doorway leading back towards the morgue. He could see several men in Nazi uniform shooting out towards the area he had encountered Doctor Okitsu, and several undead on the ground. Peter feared the possibility that the Russians were now preparing to take the facility. He watched as a walking corpse pounced on the SS officer with great force, toppling him to the ground. The creature punched through his chest as he screamed, tearing out his guts. For a moment, the zombie paused, as if with human clarity, and it could now see Peter through the open doorway. It stared blankly into him for only a moment, before being gunned down in a hail of bullets from a nearby German soldier. The soldier approached the SS officer’s mangled body, touching his face to see if he was alive. He then rose to his feet, alerting soldiers in other rooms, “Alles klar!” 


    Peter had been so shocked by the sight he did not think to reach for the weapon in his boot. No amount of training could have prepared him for the ferocity of the undead. Data showed that their strength rivaled that of the average human, a byproduct of their resurrection with 115. Despite the simplicity of their brain function, they could tear through a human body with ease. Peter lamented the fact that the OSS desired Group 935’s research, after seeing first-hand the results. He saw nothing of value in anything he had witnessed today.


    Peter did his best to rise to his feet, slowly approaching the man from behind, arms raised to let them know he was not one of the undead. Before he could say anything, a hand was placed over his mouth and he was dragged down the hallway by an unknown assailant. Peter’s body was too shell-shocked to put up a fight, but he was soon after thrown to the tile floor inside of a small, dark room, with the door being shut behind him.


    He did his best to rise to his feet again, his sense of awareness shaken by what had just transpired. Peter was returned to reality at the sound of a distinct voice cutting through the darkness, “That was a close one, mein friend.” The voice was that of Doctor Edward Richtofen.


    Richtofen pulled the cord of a lamp, lighting up his corner of the room, illuminating his tan, Nazi uniform and signature grin. He gestured to a chair at a nearby desk, “Please, have a seat. We have much to discuss.”


    Peter remained standing, silent. Richtofen continued, “So, you are a spy! I knew it!”


    Peter shook his head, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


    Richtofen chuckled, “Don’t worry, Peter, I know everything! I sent you the message to find me here, then like a good little boy, you did just as I asked. So reliable. No wonder they chose you!”


    Peter lifted his arms, frustrated, “Alright, now what do you want with me? What was all this about?!”


    Richtofen crossed his legs, leaning back in his chair, “Please, please, I understand you were nearly killed just moments ago, but you must remain calm for what I am about to propose.”


    “Why should I?! What’s keeping me here?!”


    Richtofen placed his fingers to his chin, glancing away as if in thought, “Hm… Let me think about that, oh ja, our burly friend, Frederick, who brought you here, the rampaging undead subjects, the Red Army, und maybe, just maybe, the possibility that I may expose you as a spy und throw you to the trigger-happy, adrenaline-filled men with MP-40s.”


    Peter searched the room for any possible method of escape, finding none; There was only one way in and out. He let out a sigh, before taking a seat as Richtofen suggested, “Alright, point taken.”


    Richtofen wagged his finger, “Come on, Peter, hear me out! I promise this will be worth your while! Today, I will make you a bonafide American hero!”


    Peter appreciated that he could at least have a moment of reprieve from his work, though he loathed listening to even another second of Richtofen’s grating voice. He motioned to Richtofen to continue.


    “Thank you! Now, what if I told you that I would be willing to strike up a deal that would provide the United States with Group 935’s vast wealth of research AND scientists?”


    Peter was confused, as all attempts to work with Group 935 after the end of the war resulted in radio silence. He had assumed recruiting Doctor Richtofen himself was a lost cause. “Why now?”


    “I’m sure you have realized by now that the Russians can wait no longer to get what they desire. You’ve just seen un example of what they are willing to do to force a surrender! In exchange for our cooperation, we are seeking asylum in the United States, pun intended! Asylum, und a few other fair demands… ”


    Peter asked, “Demands?”


    Richtofen pulled out a drawer from a nearby desk, and retrieved a piece of folded paper; He passed it over to Peter.


    Peter scanned the document, a notarized list of ridiculous demands that seemed to benefit nobody but Richtofen himself. Only he would have the audacity to do something so insane. “You can’t be serious?”


    Richtofen continued to grin, nodding his head, “Oh, I am, American. I must be clear that this is not a surrender, but an agreement. We must be compensated for our cooperation, no?”


    “You mean you must be compensated! Does anyone else even know about this deal? What about Doctor Maxis?”


    Richtofen returned to leaning back in his chair, “Believe it or not, this whole thing was his idea! Seriously!”


    Peter shook his head, “So you think American forces are just going to waltz in here, and everyone is just going to willingly come with us without resisting? Why do I have trouble believing that?”


    “It sounds to me like you have personal hang-ups about me… ” Richtofen’s expression had soured.


    Peter continued, “Correct, Doctor. I’ve read your books, studied your work, and had the displeasure of sifting through your mail. I know you’re a habitual liar and will step on anyone to get your way.”


    Richtofen stood from his chair, “You have no idea who I am! No idea what I’m capable of! Do not call me a liar, you baseball-watching, apple-pie eating little-!” He shut his eyes, staying silent for a moment. Peter noticed that Doctor Richtofen’s hands were shaking. He continued, “Just do as I say, American. Send a transmission to your handler or whomever, and allow me to prepare my men for what is coming.”


    Peter sat still in his chair. Frustrated, Richtofen pointed his finger at Peter, “Go on, contact him! … Or her!”


    Peter spoke with confidence, “You are not going anywhere. I’ll send the transmission, but you are staying right here until I get orders from my handler.”


    Richtofen asked, “Do you know who I am?! Without me, our work in Siberia will grind to a halt! Without me, this deal will not take place! My people are loyal to me, and only me. I tell them what to do, do you understand?!”


    Peter nodded, “Oh, I understand that you’ve got them eating out of your hands. But, problem is, I don’t trust you to keep your word. So, we’re staying right here.”


    Richtofen laughed, though his demeanor was clearly one of frustration, “How do you intend to keep me here, American?!”


    Peter reached into his boot, removing a tiny, single-shot FP-45 pistol and taking aim at the now shocked Doctor.


    Richtofen said nothing, his intensity diminishing. He slowly slumped back into his chair.


    Peter kept the pistol aimed towards him as he removed the radio from his belongings. “Now keep quiet while I do this. No calling for help or we’re both gonna have a problem.”


    He extended the antenna and began a transmission, “Cornelius, this morning I was transferred from Der Riese to the Verrückt Facility. It looks like your suspicions were correct: The Soviets are preparing to make a move on Group 935. They’ve already bombed the hell out of the surrounding area and are beginning to bomb the asylum. I can also confirm we have uniformed SS men on site prepared to fight the Russians. They are heavily armed and dangerous. A recent bombing also set off an outbreak. It seems to have been contained for now, but I have no confidence in Group 935’s abilities to maintain control. This place is not going to last much longer. I’d advise sending teams to contain the facility and direct communication with Soviet forces to stay out… So far I have been unsuccessful in securing more Element 115 research, but this place may be key in acquiring it. One last thing: Doctor Edward Richtofen is here, and he has made us a bizarre offer. He says he is willing to give up Group 935 scientists and research in exchange for the safety of the scientists and… his own list of demands. I will now read his offer… It reads, ‘Dear Mr. Harry Truman, my new best friend, it is clear to me that the Soviet Union will not halt their imposition of power over Group 935 facilities. I have spoken with Doctor Maxis, and he agrees that his decision to align with the Nazi Party was, frankly, foolish. We have paid the price with many lives being lost among our ranks. To avoid further bloodshed, Ludvig Maxis proposed that Group 935 should surrender its research and its staff to the United States of America in exchange for the safety of its scientists and full legal protection. I, of course, agreed wholeheartedly. A notarized list of scientists willing to cooperate with the United States will be written shortly, along with the identities of their families, if they have any. Any research at our facilities not destroyed by Soviet attacks will be available. This is not an authorization to enter our facilities; There is still much to discuss until the transaction can be made. In order to make the most of my offer, I implore you, Mr. President, to be swift in your decision. I can wait, however, the Communists cannot. In addition, as the dealmaker, so to speak, I ask for compensation to affirm my role in propelling the United States into the modern scientific world. My demands are fair, and they are listed as follows:’”


    “His demands are, ‘One portrait of Richtofen to be hung in the Pentagon, one American baseball signed by your Babe Ruth, twenty of your American Dollars.’ He wants it in the form of ten pennies, four nickels, two dimes, two quarters, four 1's, one 5, and one 10. He wants, and I quote, ‘One of these “American Hot Dogs” I’ve been hearing so much about. One American teddy bear, speaking of… Teddy Roosevelt’s moustache from cold storage.’ In parentheses, ‘I know you have it.’ ‘One Polarization Device to be constructed,’ in brackets, ‘Coordinates to be specified.’ He also requests a ‘Titanium cog of my precise specifications, J. Robert Oppenheimer's Chalkboard, not cleaned,’ ‘Build a nice flower garden outside your Pentagon Facility, it desperately needs the color,’ and finally, ‘President Truman’s Hat.’”


    Richtofen began to smile again in his seat. Peter continued with the transmission, “Look, Cornelius, I don’t know what he’s up to, and I understand this is a hell of an offer, but I don’t know if he can be trusted. As soon as you can, let me know of my new orders. I’ll be waiting.”


    As the transmission ended, Peter leaned back in his chair, the weapon still trained on Richtofen. Richtofen seemed relaxed, placing his hands behind his head. “Und now what, Peter McCain?”


    Peter let out an exhausted sigh, “And now, we spend the night in here, together… ”

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